15. Lullaby, by Chuck Palahniuk (2002)
Even when the one-of-a-kind Chuck Palahniuk isn’t working in the horror fiction genre, his novels are always seeped in darkness, and also the sickest humor imaginable. So when he decided to jump headfirst into the world of literary scares with Lullaby, the results were practically guaranteed to disturb beyond belief.
And the man didn’t disappoint. Lullaby, a twisty, wildly structured tale of magic and murder, follows a newspaper reporter, a real estate agent, and a Wiccan as they travel across country tracking down copies of a children’s poem that kills anyone who hears it. Naturally, none of the characters are one-dimensional. Streator, the journalist, first uses the “culling song” to flat-line several innocent victims; meanwhile, Helen Boyle, the house-seller, specializes in showing demonically inhabited houses.
By the time you reach Lullaby's rug-pulling, totally bonkers ending (the norm for a Palahniuk novel), the author’s knack for alternating between hilarity and creepiness enhances what’s already been a fascinating, richly layered narrative. One that could only from a man as warped and gifted as Palahniuk.